Back in January, I wrote a post wondering whether the primary song genre was home to the greatest Mormon art. The best primary songs are beautifully crafted and resonate powerfully with the target audience (young children) and often with older audiences as well. The bounty of Great Mormon Art for small children is part of why the church is such a good place for a little kid: it’s a valuable component of a larger project of community, love, and values education that serves the young well.
How do we do when primary is ending, though? I used to teach 11-year-old boys at church. Primary songs don’t do as much for them as they do for the eight-year-olds. Do we have alternate media ready to reach them in the manner of their own language? What about the church youth? The church is very interested in its youth organizations, and for good reason–it’s in the 12-18 demographic that many of our members begin to struggle. What do we provide culturally in the place of primary songs and bright pictures of Jesus with little children?
About a week ago, something my wife said triggered a memory of when my teenage stake organized a fireside in which the youth were to sing a program which included a Janice Kapp Perry piece called “Sixteen–It’s a Magical Age.” I love a lot of Perry’s primary songs, but “Sixteen–It’s a Magical Age” seemed specifically designed to bring out the mocking teenage cynic in each of us. Seriously? We were supposed to practice every Sunday for a month so we could sing about magical ages to our parents? 14 and 15 and 16 aren’t magical ages when you’re living them. They are oftenoverwhelming, high stakes ages, in which you find yourself having to renogtiate all your relationships at once. Calling it “magical” seemed a little condescending, a little naive. And did I mention incredibly embarrassing?
If “Sixteen–It’s a Magical Age” is not very moving art for its target audience, what is? In July, I wrote about various possible functions literature could serve in “building up the kingdom.” Are any of those particularly relevant to teenagers in the church? Are there other vital roles art can play?
Also: what is the best of our art for teenagers right now? I know that in music, various LDS artists have done quite well in creating genuine, unforced connections with LDS youth audiences. Any particular recommendations? And it’s no secret that in the national YA marker, LDS authors have done particularly well. Can you recommend any YA books for church youth which serve their audiences in a particularly important way? What is it they manage to do?